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Medical Equipment Needs Maintenance

28 March 2018

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For over three years now I have been working for THET in Zambia on medical equipment and its maintenance. In the beginning, we set up a 3+ year diploma training program for biomedical engineering technologists (BMET). More recently, we have executed a pilot project to determine the impact of our graduates on the medical equipment condition in district hospitals. This project has now come to an end and I want to share with you some of the key results. The full completion report can be found here.

The project employed eight of our first cohort of BMET graduates (pictured). On arrival at their assigned hospitals, they found that on average only 71% of medical equipment was functional. The rest was often just standing around and had been in this condition for some time. Eight months later, at the end of the project, they had managed to increase the Uptime to 93%. A result to be proud of! We analyzed that this Uptime number could even have been 98% if a modest additional amount of money had been made available for the procurement of spare parts. Unfortunately, there are no budgets reserved for equipment maintenance in the government hospitals. Hospital management has to weigh monthly the procurement of spare parts against the (more?) urgent needs for pharmaceuticals, food, fuel, etc.

Preventive maintenance and user training programs were also started. The number of corrective repair actions went down over time. It became clear already that the role of the Biomedical Engineering Technologists (BMETs) will gradually develop from equipment repair to prevention and management, as in most high-income countries.

A business case was made to evaluate the financial impact of an in-house equipment maintenance service. It proved beyond doubt that it is wasteful to procure new equipment without providing professional maintenance. In that case, on average 30% of the procurement value will be lost during equipment down time and even more may be lost by the reduction in expected life time of non-maintained equipment.

As part of the sustainability of this work, THET has now developed a plan to roll out an in-house medical equipment maintenance service across all government hospitals in the country. The Ministry of Health and various Cooperating Partners are now considering this plan. If it is accepted, my work in Zambia may continue……

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Anderson is one of the BMETs who received a Diploma in Biomedical Engineering Technology at NORTEC, Ndola

“I chose to do a Biomedical Engineer Technician (BMET) Diploma because I love engineering and the combination of that with the medical side is very interesting. It is difficult being a BMET especially because in the hospital, when the first machine breaks down staff just put it aside, and the same thing happens when the second one breaks, finally when the last one breaks down they will bring it to us and say ‘fix this’ we don’t have anything to use now. So I feel a lot of pressure but the training has really helped and now I feel as if I help to save lives.”

Read his full profile here.

This post was written by:

Chris Mol - Biomedical Engineer and THET Consultant


  • Shammy Peterson
    18 Nov 2021 18:46
    It sure was interesting when you said that it has become clear that the role of Biomedical Engineering Technologists is important as they handle equipment repair to prevention and management. With this in mind, I will convince my daughter to consider enrolling herself in a biomedical college. She has been interested in the medical field, and she wants to find a career that is in demand to ensure her future and employment stability. https://cbet.edu
  • Angel Bogart
    24 Apr 2019 02:24
    I'm really glad that you explained how getting your staff trained for in-house equipment servicing by enrolling them in the best local BMET programs could not only save companies a lot of money but also a lot of time too in transporting equipment and production downtime. This is just the kind of a wise cost-efficient investment that my dad wants for his downtown cultural hub. Not only would it centralize all equipment maintenance in the machine office but it would also raise the longevity of procured equipment indefinitely. http://cittx.edu/bmetprogram/

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